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Manage Your Cybersecurity Like an NBA Pro

While you might want to emulate an NBA All-Star on the court, it's just as important to handle your cybersecurity like a seasoned professional.

Whether you’re a recent NBA draftee with your world changed overnight or a fan that follows every highlight of the game, here’s something you should pay attention to: Every 39 seconds, someone is getting hacked, according to a University of Maryland study.1

And the higher your profile, the more likely you are to become a target.

The good news? Following sound cybersecurity practices isn’t all that hard and can sharply diminish your odds of being a victim. The following tips, designed for professional athletes and celebrities to protect themselves from hackers, explore some of the cybersecurity scenarios you might face on a typical day.

Those USB Charging Stations May Be Hacker Bait: Say you’re at the airport waiting for your flight to Las Vegas for the start of the NBA Summer League, and you notice the charge on your phone battery is low. Right there is a public charging station to tie you over until you board.

It’s so tempting…but resist the urge to use the airport USB station to recharge. Hackers can use publicly available cords to infect your device with malware or steal data from your phone. The same holds true for those charging cords sometimes offered in cabs and ride-sharing services.

A better option? Travel with your own cable and charger and plug into a standard power outlet, or keep a portable recharger handy for when an outlet isn’t available.

Also, don’t trust public, unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots at the airport or anywhere unless you’re using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Cybercriminals can intercept such connections. A VPN can provide a safer, encrypted method to access the Internet in public settings. VPNs are easy to implement and use, and available from many reputable providers for a nominal monthly fee. You can also securely connect online through your phone’s mobile hot spot.

Monitor Your Surroundings: Your flight lands in Vegas and you use a ride-sharing service to get to your hotel. On the road, you call your agent to talk about some details of your new contract.

Immersed in conversation, you don’t notice that the driver who saw your name on your ride-sharing ID is eavesdropping, and learning sensitive information that could be used against you later.

For NBA athletes, anonymity no longer exists. Strangers will recognize your name or face anytime, anywhere. A taxi or ride-sharing vehicle may feel like a relatively benign, private space but you still need to guard what you say, where you say it and who may be listening.

Even for those of us who aren’t famous, the details of who we are, what we do, where we live, our birthday, favorite color and music are likely just a few clicks away on social media for anyone curious enough to search once they have some basic information, like your name.

Bolster Your Password Security: After arriving at the hotel, you use its business center to sign into your email account and make a copy of the contract just sent from your agent.

What’s wrong with that? Well, for starters, you shouldn’t use public computers because they might be infested with malware and capturing the information you enter. But, beyond that, the password connected with your email account is the same one used for all your financial accounts. And social media accounts. And every other important account.

So, if a cyberthief steals that password, they can go on a devastating spree that could wipe out your savings, max out your credit cards, seize your private photos, obtain access to your personal and business contacts, post embarrassing messages to your social media accounts and damage your reputation—all within hours.

How do you protect yourself from this? Create a unique, lengthy and difficult-to-guess password for each account.

Think that’s too much work? Use a password manager instead. These tools create complex passwords for you, and store them in an encrypted secure digital vault so you don’t have to remember each password. In the unlikely event that a cybercrook hacks into the vault, the encrypted information adds yet another layer of protection, rendering your data useless to them.

Keep a Security Inventory: Just before your first Summer League game, you give your phone to your manager for safekeeping. At halftime, he heads for the concession stand, and leaves your phone with his teenage son. Out of curiosity, the son starts looking through it. He uncovers some sensitive information, shares it with a couple friends, and before the third quarter begins some private details of your life are now public knowledge.

This could happen to anybody, and that’s the problem. Always lock your phone with a strong password. Also, keep track of who has access to your phone, accounts, and digital life and everyone who knows your passwords, too (just like you’d want to keep track of every spare key to your home). That makes it easier to track down and eliminate possible security breaches within your inner circle because, even if you’re careful, hackers can still come at you sideways through your friends and associates.

Think Before Responding: Back at the hotel room, you check for missed texts and emails. There’s one from an NBA superstar congratulating you, one from a shoe rep interested in an endorsement deal, another from a distant cousin asking for a financial favor and hundreds more.

It’s both overwhelming and exciting. Before you hastily reply to each message, ask yourself if you’re certain the message is from the person he claims to be. It’s easy for cybercriminals to “spoof” messages – making them appear to be from someone that’s either a known contact or other legitimate source.

When in doubt, set up a call with the person to verify his or her identity, or redirect them to your business manager and agent. Also, don’t click on links or open attachments – which can contain malware that compromises your device – or provide sensitive information by email or text, unless you’re certain about the legitimacy of the sender. Caution trumps haste every time.

Tighten Your Social Media Protection: Before retiring for the night, you post pictures of the day’s activities on your social media accounts. After all, you realize the importance of using social to connect with friends, family and fans to communicate broadly and build your brand.

Because your social media accounts are so critical to your reputation, be vigilant about protecting them. For instance, enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) when offered by your financial institutions, email provider or other sensitive accounts. It gives your accounts an additional layer of security, such as a push notification or fingerprint used to confirm your identity. Also, lock down the privacy settings on your accounts, and limit how much personal information you share with the public.

Taking these measures can help you avoid embarrassment and reputational damage that can be difficult to repair, and prevent cybercriminals from holding social media accounts for ransom, along with other serious security issues.

Make Cybersecurity a Priority

When your head finally hits that plush hotel pillow, you’ll sleep better knowing you’ve taken the necessary steps to reduce the risks of being a cybersecurity victim.

If you’d like more information about protecting yourself from fraudsters, please contact a Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment Director. Or visit the Morgan Stanley Online Security Center.

MORGAN STANLEY GLOBAL SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT